It isn't surprising that we haven't heard much (good) about Free Markets from the Democrats, either in the discussions of energy independence or ways of responding to the collapse of the broader market. It should be both surprising and dismaying that we have not heard the concept from Republicans, either on the Presidential campaign trail or from the survivors in Congress. Everyone's favorite way of getting us to enregy independence seems to be government manipulation of the marketplace. The only real discussion is what forms of energy to subsidize and what forms to further tax. So now we are going to see more subsidies for alternative forms of energy so that they can compete with cheap oil, which is only cheap because government is subsidizing oil production.
As for the broader economy, we are being told that we have to borrow trillions of dollars to jumpstart the economy, an economy that was functioning just fine less than a year ago. It is true that we were sitting on a powder keg of what are now called "toxic assets". The easiest way to think about what are called "toxic assets" is to think of yourself as an apple buyer, and some of the sellers got together and decided that instead of separating rotting apples from the good ones before they packaged them up, they would just hide them inside the barrels of good apples. As long as you could buy and sell these barrels of apples without opening them, it really doesn't make any difference whether or how many bad apples are in the barrel. But eventually, the ultimate user of the apples is going to open them and either will be happy that they are all good, or more likely, quite unhappy that some of the apples are spoiled. That is why there are certain standards that apple buyers and sellers expect, and that government properly spells out those standards just as they spell out weights and measures (a Constitutional responsibilty). In financial markets, however, the experts who make 7 or 8 or 9 figure salaries, have decided to mix good and bad assets together in a way that is almost impossible to unscramble. Until we decide upon standards for financial transactions ( a proper governmental function, similar to setting standards of weights and measures), we will no longer be able to rely on our financial markets to play their role in a free market of setting prices and allocating resources. You will note that this idea has not been part of any discussion of economic policy that has been reported on in Washington.